Yet another discussion of universal salvation

I think this is a reasonable position. If we maintain belief in free will should we not at least hold open the possibility that some may ultimately reject God? But what of the talk about “broad is the way?” Hyperbole?

I actually find Gregory of Nyssa’s view to be quite plausible given I don’t think after our existence here everyone is ready for a heaven/hell type judgment. Not everyone gets a fair or equally long lasting shake in this life. I’ve always found the idea of purgatory to make sense since I don’t think I will be ready upon death to sit in heaven playing harps. I know that is a caricature but “eternal life” sounds kind of boring to be honest, which means I have a lot of growing to do still. But obviously the nature of that existence is something we cannot comprehend and have to simply have faith in God.

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I personally don’t believe that universalism displaces the drive for a Christian to save the lost. Even if universalism is true it does not mean we don’t have to carry out the great commission. If you love God you’ll still want to please him. Similar claims are used against all main after life thoughts.

  1. People often say if you believe in annihilation then it means you won’t have the same drive to save the lost because they just get destroyed, as opposed to being tortured forever. But it’s not true. You still want your loved ones and people in general to have eternal life.

  2. People often say that the afterlife of the lost is that they are given eternal life just so they can be tortured forever and ever. 100 years of bad deeds equates to billions and billions of years of torture. So people say how could you ever love a god who does that? How could you be a Christian out of love snd not out of fear of hell. Hellfire preaching is one of the most common tools for short term conversions. But the reality is that you can still love God and believe that he allows someone to live in differing for millions and millions of years because he gave them all the same chances as us to come to him.

  3. For universalism you often hear the accusation that if you believe ultimately everyone will be saved then why worry about trying to save them. But again that’s false. You can believe that everyone will be saved and still believe that they need to come to Christ and thst the world will be better because of it. You’ll love god for his abundance of grace and mercy and know that since we all fall short we all deserve death but he’s a loving God who gifted life to everyone and so we still submit to him and preach of his goodness now.

A example that comes to mind would be if a man found a wonderful woman to be his wife. She was great in every way and was always there for him and told him no matter if he cheats on her, or even if he cheats on her again and again she will still love him. If that man really loves her, despite the grace she’s extending, he would not cheat on her just because there won’t be consequences. He will still be faithful because he loves her.

But likewise, if that same woman told him that as long as he loves her she will be there for him and forgive him. She was fantastic. Yet he still abused her, and he still cheated on her. If after 10 years of being hospitalized from abuse and being left alone for weeks at a time while her husband cheated on her she declared she was done and left him no one would say, “
Oh well I guess she never loved him. I guess she has no grace and mercy.” No. Everyone would say she was great to him, she always showed him so much love and forgave him every time. They would all say that he’s done her wrong so many times that they should divorce and that it’s the husbands lack of love that caused the relationship to fall apart.

However this story does not work with eternal conscience torment. The same great woman that puts up with so much ends up sedating her husband and he wakes up in a basement with no escape. She tortured him constantly. Finally it gets so bad he takes his life to escape. Only the next day he wakes up again and is forever stuck in this black magic loop of against. lol. Most of us would think, aye he was bad and deserved to be left and maybe even deserved to be slapped a bit but surly after 1500 years her rage should have went away.


@Vinnie, see that excellent Guardian long read. Love is utterly omnipotent. No one can reject it. Free will is only ever invoked to justify God damning everyone and letting evil rip. What blasphemy.


All the scary, threatening hard sayings of Jesus are contextualized, as Karl Barth fully recognized, in pistis Christou. His faithfulness, Not our filthy work rag of faith in it. He doesn’t need our faith to save us. We need His faithfulness, which is completely efficacious whether we know Him and it or not. It is finished. Salvation is done. Never mind what Jesus said in His hard sayings to helplessly hard hearted people in hard times in an effort to get them to become decent human beings. Never mind worst case literal interpretation with no hermeneutic phenomenology, no appreciation of context, culture, psychology. All of Jesus’ hard sayings can only be deconstructed and reconstructed through the lens of omnipotent, irresistible love.

Playing Jesus’ own game, I’ll happily de/reconstruct any clobber passage you want, what did Jesus mean when He said,

Matthew 10: 14 And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words, when ye depart out of that house or city, shake off the dust of your feet. 15 Verily I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment, than for that city.

Matthew 11:20 Then began he to upbraid the cities wherein most of his mighty works were done, because they repented not: 21 Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works, which were done in you, had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. 22 But I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the day of judgment, than for you. 23 And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven, shalt be brought down to hell: for if the mighty works, which have been done in thee, had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. 24 But I say unto you, That it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for thee.

Luke 10:10 But into whatsoever city ye enter, and they receive you not, go your ways out into the streets of the same, and say, 11 Even the very dust of your city, which cleaveth on us, we do wipe off against you: notwithstanding be ye sure of this, that the kingdom of God is come nigh unto you. 12 But I say unto you, that it shall be more tolerable in that day for Sodom, than for that city. 13 Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works had been done in Tyre and Sidon, which have been done in you, they had a great while ago repented, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. 14 But it shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the judgment, than for you. 15 And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted to heaven, shalt be thrust down to hell.

What is He saying will happen to Bethsaida and Chorazin and Capernaum?

And later.

'If justice will occur then what was the point of Jesus’s death if each of us will be given what we actually deserve after death? ’

The point of Jesus’ death is that it is the pivot between His life and His resurrection. Without it we wouldn’t know God at all. We’d have no warrant for Him at all. All will have every lack made up, every loss restored and more. That’s perfect justice. All scales level.

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If God’s Mercy/Goodness is not just more powerful than evil but boundless… how can it be bounded? If love is omnipotent, who can reject it?

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We have good reason from trustworthy testimony to understand that God is not just a big sugar daddy handing out pie in the sky by and by, forcing his love on everyone. Anything else is just made up wishful thinking.

If I’m to believe half the testimony I hear from televangelists, most natural disasters are God handing out some stick instead of carrots aimed at gays, liberals or some other group that is damned according to those who speak for God.

Sometimes I get the feeling that at least some Christians would refrain from addressing inequities for fear of interfering with Gods justice. For a group that always insists that judgment is for God to do, this has always seemed inconsistent to me.


God is fair.*


*ETA: That means he executes righteousness and justice.

The limitations are not with God - this debate inevitably comes to how we understand human freedom. If we are free to reject God’s grace in this life, are we not free to do so at any point?

I find it difficult to provide a dogmatic answer to that question.


Faith is a gift of God, and works are the outcome of faith. The two go hand-in-hand. If the standard was all-or-nothing, we’d all be screwed. I don’t have an answer to your last question. It seems a possibility, but beyond that who can say?

I’m aware of various models of the atonement (add Christus victor to the list), but I haven’t looked into the question in any depth. Call me agnostic on all of them. Christians aren’t immune to God’s justice. Many say “Lord, Lord” now who will weep and mourn on that day. And I also believe the flip-side. Many who lived before Christ and who later lived in ignorance of Christ may enter the kingdom of God. Some may follow the way of Jesus – love of neighbor, do unto others – without formal knowledge of Jesus. They may be few and far between in any culture and time, but they have always existed.

I think God views all people through the lens of Christ. Even those outside the covenant.

You make a good case for universalism. I wouldn’t be surprised if it were true, but at the moment I lean toward “the gate is narrow, and the road is hard.” I’m not sure I qualify myself, despite all my book learning.

I went to the University of Texas just 14 yrs after the shootings. The Tower’s observation deck was still closed back then. One of my high school teachers was a student at UT in 1966. Comparing notes with older siblings, his role and heroism grew over the years. If you have Amazon Prime, I highly recommend “Tower.” A cool mix of animation and interviews with survivors.

Live in the light while you have it. Well said.

Every loss restored works for the victim. But what of the abuser? I still think only the righteous inherit the kingdom. But my confidence on that is no more than 60-40. Still listening, in other words …

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How can God, unbounded mercy and goodness, be limited by a human evil, binding, limitation? Freedom becomes meaningless when used with the meaningless concept of rejection of God’s grace in this life. Grace cannot be rejected. That which is not experienced, sensed, understood in this life cannot be rejected. I do not understand grace that can fail. Love never fails. In the next life it will be fully experienced; inexorably, omnipotently therapeutic. God has already repeatedly said this dogmatically.

As you helplessly demonstrate Jay. It is hard to see the simplicity of Christ. It is hard to see that love never fails. It is hard to see that love wins. Especially when nobody in your fellowship, your culture does, from the pulpit on down. It is hard to see the hard sayings of Jesus through His lens when nobody else can. It is hard in this life. Reality ripping that plaster off is going to hurt Christians distinctively at the beginning of the next.

Every abuser is a victim. All are righteous in the Elect. I wish, so wish, that I was worth listening to.

While I would agree generally, I find some things confronting, such as what of Judas? He had direct experience, and Christ stated that, “you see Me, you see God”. Why did Judas turn against Christ if not because he exercised his human freedom as he did.

Yes, those that had faith were healed by Christ - we all hope that this is true for all of us.

As I mentioned previously, Christ placed a condition - repent. If things are conditional, they cannot be unconditional. So it is not human evil that limits God’s mercy, it is human self-deception that may prevent us from seeing God in Christ.

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Put yourself in Judas’ shoes. No one has seen, encountered God, Love as He is in the transcendent. Judas had no more direct experience of God than you or I. He experienced God in human form in a hard world. How can being bitter and twisted be freedom? Oh and Judas repented, but no one down here was listening.

Christ healed those who showed, could show, no faith whatsoever too. And the faith they all showed was never in Him as their penal substitute. It was the faith of desperation. If you were a leper you’d have faith too.

Human self-deception works in all who cannot see universal reconciliation in Christ.

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Christ said your faith has healed you - but even than He understood the extent of their faith. Even a little is enough for Christ.

You have avoided the conditionality in the requirement for repentance. If Judas could repent, he would have before committing his act.

There is none. Jesus saves all from their lack, their incapacity of repentance. Including the incapacity to believe that He is competent. That love never fails.

PS And that logic re Judas, in that case none of us would ever sin.

This is indeed a curious thing to me. And @Klax is right - Judas did repent. In fact - it seems to me that Judas was guilty of the same thing that every other disciple was also guilty of: turning away from (and even denying) Christ just at the point when the world was bringing its worst down upon Him.

Others will respond to this by saying … “Oh - but Judas was guilty of so much more … he didn’t just flee - he betrayed Christ by throwing in with the accusers and collaborating with them (and for some filthy lucre, no less) - even leading them to Jesus!”

And thus we expose our own still-persisting inability to understand Christ and his central message of grace as we scrabble about trying to differentiate sins … “Oh - but he was so much worse …” and “…but they are truly evil people - in ways that decent folks (like us) are not … just look at what they do.”

The point here isn’t to deny the presence of truly horrifying evil in the world - the kind that should give everybody PTSD. The point it that we falsely imagine that none of that “truly bad” evil is inside of us. Yes - we’ll admit - we are bad; the scriptures say so, after all. But we’re guilty of the cute and cuddly sins. The ones that can be forgiven. Not the truly despicable ones that remain unaccompanied by any later remorse or even acknowledgement. Those sins are a different category - and we can stand in front of the temple with our heads held high, and thank God that we aren’t like those evil-doers back there that won’t even darken the doorway of any temple, much less express repentance about anything.

And thus we show ourselves still - after all these years and all Christ’s persistent labors - still missing the point. None of us is worthy of grace, but grace it is that Christ brings anyway … to all of us.

But you press on … (because - the bible is a big book and a wonderful provision of decontextualized prooftexts to help us bolster whatever case we want to bring forward, no matter how misled) … but didn’t Jesus himself say of Judas “It would have been better he had never been born”? Ouch! Not everybody gets singled out by the Messiah for a comment like that, right? Shoot - it’s almost as bad as if he had maybe called Judas “Satan” or something. But Jesus would never have gone that far, right? … to actually call somebody “Satan”? Because wasn’t Jesus known for keeping his exhortations dispassionate and very matter-of-fact. He would never have dreamed of using sarcasm or using a sledgehammer to drive home His lessons, would he?

I think what we do see Jesus doing is driving home to us how terrible our evil is (just as others have been laboring to do in this thread … “Oh - but you don’t understand: I’ve seen real evil and those people are beyond the pale of redemption!”) Okay. It would seem to me that Christ may agree. “Woe to those through whom such things are brought into the world - it would be better they had never been born!” I don’t think Christ came here to redeem evil. He came to redeem people - meaning to teach us to loath evil (all of it - including - …no especially our own) as much as he does, and like so many rightly do in this thread. And that means his love, if it be worth that name, must prevail in the end. In the end every tongue of every Judas and even every Peter will willingly and lovingly confess with sincere worship (not in a crude mockery of the claim) that Christ is Lord. Either Go Big or go home. Nobody in the end is going to congratulate Christ with “Hey - that was a good run, Jesus - you managed to save a solid 8% of all the billions of souls out there - many of us weren’t even thinking the chosen would have included that many with the road to life being as narrow and hard to find as it was and all!” Too bad about all the eternal burning torture going on over there in your presence - right? But hey - your Love can’t do everything - I mean … there is some evil out there - some stubbornly unrepentant souls that your love just won’t have enough staying power to reach, right? You do remember those stories you told about the virgins who didn’t prepare; and then the doors were shut after a time and they lost their chance to get in, don’t you? The shepherd isn’t going to just leave the 99 (er, I mean 8) for very long, are you? If that lost sheep isn’t found, the shepherd can’t just keep looking forever, right? Besides, what if that last lost sheep is actually running away from you and doesn’t want to be found? At least you still have the 99 (I mean 8) to come back to - right, Jesus? … Jesus? - hey - where are you going?


I think any differences between my outlook, yours and @Klax, is that of emphasis and dogma. My position has always been to accept that only God makes the final judgement on you and me (and everyone). Thus I accept that I would commit sin, but I also hope I may not. This hope is grounded on the belief that when I do that which I would rather not, I can find forgiveness, and that is because of Christ.

So my uncertainty stems from myself, and not a belief that God is ‘not competent’. That is why I agree with @Klax (and others) that we depend on faith and not my human judgement on who God saves - naturally I hope He saves everyone as that would include me.


I sympathise. I do. The shadow of ancient Egypt is still upon us. But : ) Our work of faith cannot save us. Only Jesus’ faithfulness can. I depend on that to know that God saves all.

For most of that excellent reply you reminded me of me Mervin! But just to spoil it, if our evil is that terrible, why does He put up with it? At all? His ways really aren’t our ways. He really is ‘other’. The only thing that makes Him bearable is that He doesn’t punish us at all except incidentally in correcting us, as in fixing us, deconstructing and reconstructing us, setting things right, in paradise. Now that’s got to hurt. Especially the Lord, Lord - Christian - brigade. And everybody else who justifies their abuse of power. Not me of course…

Personally, I don’t think this question of universalism has anything whatsoever to do with justice, because I don’t think heaven and hell are about justice either. Heaven and hell are about the willingness to change and give up our sins. And regardless, completely on top and in addition to that, we will have reason to regret every evil thing we have done and to be grateful for every good thing we have done – in BOTH heaven AND hell. I don’t believe in any escape from the consequences of our actions either way.

So in my thinking, the issue of universalism is really about freedom of will and whether we make choices of any consequence. It is about the nature of life and love, which simply doesn’t exist without a freedom to make choices of consequence. Anything which is a means to power is not love, so all this babble about how love wins (or never fails) is simply a meaningless absurdity.